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After a car accident, when should I file a claim?

A car accident may only take a second or two to cause major damage and serious injuries. However, the physical and financial recovery period for accident victims can take months or even years to resolve.

If you were in a car accident, you do not have that amount of time to wait for a financial settlement from the insurance companies. Medical expenses, lost income and ongoing treatment can drain your savings fast. How quickly should you file a personal injury claim?

The sooner you file a strong, well-constructed claim, the sooner that you stand to receive the compensation that you deserve. However, slapping together a poorly supported claim by yourself or with the help of a “friend” may leave you worse off than you were before.

Begin building your claim immediately

As soon as you are able to after an accident (and, of course, receiving any necessary medical care), start gathering information about the incident. Here are some tips:

  • If you or someone with you has a cellphone with camera capabilities, photos and video taken at the scene of the accident can become very useful.
  • Jot down names and contact information of witnesses.
  • Note which homes and businesses are located nearby. Maybe one or more of them has security camera footage.
  • Make certain to write down what you recall from the accident. Pain, injuries and time can erase details from your memory.

What to do next

In the weeks and months following an accident, there are many ways a person can screw up his or her chances for getting fair compensation. Before you talk to a lawyer:

  • Don’t negotiate with an insurance company (even your own).
  • Don’t agree to a settlement or accept responsibility for any part of the accident.
  • Don’t file a claim until you know your options.

Lastly, don’t wait too long to seek the help of a lawyer because you only have a limited amount of time to file a claim.


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